Instead of focusing on jobs, the Republican leadership brought yet another bill, H.R. 2021, to the House floor that does the bidding of Big Oil and special interests. H.R. 2021 repeals limitations on drilling for oil and gas that protect air quality - rushing through Clean Air permits for oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf. The bill passed on June 22nd by a vote of 253-166.
Americans are facing high prices at the pump - and Democrats have unveiled our Make It in America: Clean Energy Jobs Now agenda to lower gas prices, end tax breaks for Big Oil, increase safe and responsible domestic oil production in Alaska and in the Gulf, and invest in jobs and a stronger, clean energy economy.
Republicans are committed to keep handing tax breaks to Big Oil and pass 'Drill Only' bills that do nothing to ease the pain at the pump for American families and small businesses.
While this bill purports to address a limited problem relating to the coast of Alaska, experts have testified that it would increase pollution and damage air quality in coastal states like California and Delaware. The legislation could impact more that 20 states and territories.
Instead of reasonable permitting reforms, this bill pursues extreme changes to the law that will produce more air pollution, more litigation, and less public participation -- waiving environmental requirements and short-circuiting permitting reviews. That may boost oil company profits, but it won't lower prices or enhance our energy security.
As with other permits, EPA approval of Shell's permits has come within three to six months of a complete application. But the total time has come to five years as Shell keeps changing the application, which starts the process over again.
American oil production is already at its highest level since 2003, and is projected to grow. And the Obama Administration is taking steps for more safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production, including expediting the search for resources, leasing new areas, providing incentives for the development of existing leases, and issuing permits to drill, consistent with rigorous safety standard and environmental responsibility.
Specifically, the bill:
- Allows just six months for considering permits, including time for technical analysis, administrative review and public participation.
- Ignores the potential health impacts of air pollution from offshore drilling on those who spend time on coastal waters, including residents and fishermen.
- Eliminates the review of permits by the Environmental Appeals Board, even though it serves as a cheaper, faster, and more expert alternative for judicial review forcing challenges to be litigated in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The bill is opposed by the Obama Administration, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, Environment America, World Wildlife Fund, Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and Public Citizen.
Last month, Republicans passed three more bills that benefitting Big Oil that would make another catastrophic oil spill more likely, and mandate the most sweeping expansion of offshore drilling in our nation's history with no regard to environmental and public health concerns.